Bayard and his black slave and sidekick, Ringo, are twelve years old when we are first introduced to them in William Faulkner's The Unvanquished. Ringo (Marengo) grandson of Joby, is born a slave on John Sartoris' plantation. He and Bayard nursed from the same slave's breast and become constant companions: "Ringo and I had been born in the same month," Bayard says, "and had both fed at the same breast and had slept together and eaten together for so long that Ringo called Granny 'Granny' just like I did, until maybe he wasn't a nigger anymore or maybe I wasn't a white boy anymore, the two of us neither, not even people any longer" (7). Ringer serves as Bayard's faithful companion.
Certain narrative passages of The Unvanquished attempt to show Bayard and Ringo engaged in a competition as equals. Though Ringo never flaunts his superiority, he emanates it. Several times, Bayard, the narrator, mentions his feelings of inferiority: "Father was right; he (Ringo) was smarter than me"(142); "He (Ringo) had got taller during the summer; he was taller than me now, and had got to treating me like Granny did--like he and Granny were the same age instead of him and me." (143) Though both boys are always together (except in the last chapter) we sense that Bayard always seems to want to prove he is far superior to Ringo. And, Ringo quietly accepts that he--the slave-- is the smarter of the two. Even when the boys play war games together, Bayard makes the rules: "Ringo could be General Pemberton or he wouldn't play anymore." Deep down, Bayard senses Ringo is his slave and must do his bidding. Ringo realizes this too and allows Bayard to choose their games. Granny also senses Ringo's intelligence (...
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...He (Ringo) had outgrown me, had changed so much that summer while he and Granny traded mules with the Yankees that since then I had had to do most of the catching up with him." (248) Bayard seems to hold Ringo's intelligence against him, bears a grudge against him; and Ringo--silent and sullen--seems to resent something about Bayard. It is almost as if a whole chapter is missing somehow and the tale of the black boy and his white friend is deliberately omitted. On the ride home, they speak only once when Ringo suggests they buckwash Redmond like they had done Grumby: "But I reckon that wouldn't suit that white skin you walks around with." Here are definitely subtle undertones of an awakening in both men. Ringo has taken his rightful place beside Bayard--now The Sartoris--his nigger slave?
Faulkner, W. The Unvanquished. New York: Vintage Books, 1966.
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